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Friday, June 9, 2023

Airfares from UAE to Saudi Arabia start to reflect increased Ramadan travel demand

DUBAI: Airfares from the UAE to Saudi Arabia have already started recording seasonal increases ahead of Ramadan, which starts next week, and may even rise further in the run-up to Eid al-Fitr.

Sharjah Air Arabia’s fares to Jeddah are Dh1,336 for the next month and Dh1,536 to Medina. During the off-peak months of January and February, airlines charge around Dh800-Dh900 to Jeddah and Dh1,100 to Medina.

As for Emirates, it costs Dh2,385 to Jeddah and Dh2,125 to Medina.

Tour operators and umrah operators in the UAE said a surge in demand from pilgrims had driven up ticket prices as Saudi Arabia marked the season without any Covid-related restrictions.

Niyas Adiraja, operations manager at Smart Travels, said: “Fares will rise again during the Hajj period in June – peak tourist times in Saudi Arabia change every year as it coincides with Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr (before the Hajj season).”

This year, Umrah packages are priced at AED 4,000 per person (all inclusive), going up to AED 45,000 for 10-day packages in the final days of Ramadan.

In fact, “pilgrims are choosing to travel by bus rather than by plane,” Adiraja said. “Even so, it’s not easy to find hotel rooms.”

Umrah and Hajj travel are expected to easily match pre-pandemic figures this year as Saudi Arabia lifts all Covid restrictions. The operator also said that there has been a 70% increase in demand for Umrah travel compared to previous months, thanks to these relaxed visa rules and the removal of all restrictions.

Raheesh Babu, chief operating officer of travel portal Musafir.com, said: “There is a year-long demand for travel from the UAE to Saudi Arabia due to business and religious travel.”

With over 70% of travelers looking for a one- to two-week trip, Jeddah is the airport of choice accounting for 75% of bookings. Ayoub El Mamoun of Skyscanner said: “As restrictions are eased and capacity is increased, we are seeing travel demand return to pre-pandemic levels, if not higher.”

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